The Blair Witch Project from 1999 had a budget of barely $22,500 and managed to earn almost $250 million.

Has there ever been any other Science Fiction/Fantasy movie that had a better (or similar) income/budget ratio?

  • 1
    De Laurentis' Dune? No, wait, that might have been the reverse. – James McLeod Mar 17 '16 at 23:54
  • 5
    In an interview in Entertainment Weekly, the director says: "[...] the original budget to get the film in the can was probably between $20,000 and $25,000. [...] the budget of what you saw in the theaters was probably $500,000 to $750,000." – Ubik Mar 18 '16 at 0:06
  • 4
    If I make a movie for free and sell it for a $1, does that count? – PyRulez Mar 18 '16 at 1:02
  • @PyRulez no, because you can't make movie for absolutely free: the camera will cost, your time will cost (you could be earning money at that time) etc. Even if you are working on stolen camera during your free time you will still pay for it one way or another :) – Yasskier Mar 18 '16 at 1:26
  • 1
    @Yasskier What if the actors pay me to be in the movie, bringing my costs to exactly $0? – PyRulez Mar 18 '16 at 1:32

According to IMDb's trivia page and the Guinness Book of Records, no:

This film was in the Guinness Book Of World Records for "Top Budget:Box Office Ratio" (for a mainstream feature film). The film cost $22,000 to make and made back $240.5 million, a ratio of $1 spent for every $10,931 made.

According to this site, yes: by their figures, Paranormal Activity (another found-footage supernatural horror film) comes out on top with a budget of $15,000 and a revenue of $193 million, compared to The Blair Witch Project's budget of $600,000 and revenue of $248 million.

I tend to believe IMDb and Guinness. $600,000 seems like a very high budget for a cast of three pretty much unknown actors running around in the middle of a wood for a few days with cheap cameras.

  • 2
    Ah, the myth of the low budget film. – Valorum Mar 18 '16 at 0:05
  • @Richard Let the vote war commence? ;-) Also, I wanted to answer this question back in December but only just managed to get it undeleted! – Rand al'Thor Mar 18 '16 at 0:07
  • 1
    See the link in the comment I left underneath the question for an explanation where the budget went. – Ubik Mar 18 '16 at 0:10
  • 1
    $15,000 for Paranormal Activity apparently doesn't include marketing according to the quote Richard posted, whereas $600,000 for Blair Witch does according to the one Ubik found; but even if you drop out marketing and go with a budget of 22,000 for Blair Witch, this Apples-to-Apples comparison still puts Paranormal Activity on top since it has a ratio of 193,000,000/15,000 = 12,867 whereas Blair Witch has 250,000,000/22,000 = 11,364. Maybe the Guinness entry was from before Paranormal Activity came out? Then the quote on imdb wouldn't be wrong, just a little misleading. – Hypnosifl Mar 18 '16 at 0:58

Paranormal Activity supposedly had a budget of just $15,000 dollars and was filmed with two actors inside the Director's own home using rented HD cameras and a sound system "borrowed" from a local film studio by one of the crew. The film took over $193m at US and overseas box offices, making it the single most profitable film of all time at a ratio of approx $12,000 made for every dollar spent.

That being said, both The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity benefited from enormous (multi-million dollar) after-market advertising campaigns and being picked up (and professionally re-edited) before receiving general release so it's really, really difficult to work out how much was actually spent on each film, let alone the post-editing, foley and other work that went into making them fit for movie theatres.

... in 2008 it [Paranormal Activity] came to the notice of DreamWorks. They felt it would be a good film to remake, and offered a hesitant Peli $350,000. However, the film's producer convinced DreamWorks to release Peli's version after Steven Spielberg became one of its most vocal champions. It was his suggestion that the now-famous end scene be added, and with this the film was eventually released on a limited theatrical basis. Paramount utilized social media to create demand, and Senior Vice-President of Interactive Marketing Amy Powell used the online 'Demand It!' Service where audiences could vote for certain films to play in their region, granting Paranormal Activity the "grassroots, do-it-yourself support ... from the bottom up" that she felt it required.'

While the $11,000 it cost to make the film is a more famous statistic in the original movie's now legendary ascension than the $2 million it cost to promote it, even with this figure added it was still a remarkable financial success: As early as January 2010 it had cleared over $90 million. - Found Footage Horror Films: Fear and the Appearance of Reality

  • The list here of movies with the highest "return on investment" also puts Paranormal Activity at the top, although this may not be exactly what the OP was asking for since they don't look at the gross profits but rather the profits "after deducting retail costs" (so even though Paranormal Activity took in $193 million, they list the profit as approximately $89 million). – Hypnosifl Mar 18 '16 at 0:17
  • And this archived page from the same site has a "Most Profitable Movies, Based on Return on Investment" which may be closer to what the OP was looking for, since it gives Paranormal's Activity's gross as $196 million and Blair Witch's as $248 million, though it's inconsistent that it has Paranormal Activity's budget as $15,000 which apparently doesn't include marketing according to the article you quoted, but Blair Witch's as $600,000 which clearly does according to the quote Ubik found. – Hypnosifl Mar 18 '16 at 0:52
  • 2
    @Hypnosifl - It's a classic case of Hollywood accounting, where the numbers are intentionally inconsistent. – Valorum Mar 18 '16 at 8:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.